Friday, 27 June 2014

Mellow Belly Guest Post

Mead from Local Honey, by Daniel Wainwright.

I visited my mum recently and saw that she had cleared out some of my dads old wine making equipment from the garage. There was a demijohn and half a dozen wine bottles (complete with contents aged 30 to 40 years, the less said about those the better!). I've dabbled in home brewed beer for a few years now and with reasonable success. I usually stick to bitter and ale from malt extract (in a kit). Any way, recently I'd been thinking about making cider or mead. We usually have a glut of cooking apples in the  autumn and I wondered if I could put them to good use. After some research it seemed clear that cider from a single variety of cooking apple is not a good prospect. Back to my other option; mead. My interest was initially drawn when I was served mead earlier this year at a Coombe Abbey Medieval Feast and I very much liked it. The methods/recipes I found online seemed straight forward enough. I'd need a lot of honey but I figured there would be a local apiarist who could supply that[3]. So when I saw the demijohn at mum's I thought “Right then, I'm going to make some mead!”.
I've used a 'Basic Mead'[1] recipe as it's my first attempt. Basic mead is made with honey and water but no fruits, spices or other adjuncts. Yeast cannot thrive on honey (sugar) alone though. This necessitates the use of yeast nutrient (amino acids aka protein). The type of yeast for mead brewing needs to be able to keep working up to much higher alcohol concentrations than those typically used for ale. The recipe also calls for 'acid blend', this is a blend of citric acid and tartaric acid which should give the final mead a more balanced and slightly fruity taste.  As with all brewing, cleanliness is key to success. You don't want your time, effort and ingredients going down the drain because your brew turned rank due to contamination leading to bacterial or fungal colonisation. Yuk! So, make sure all the kit that will be in contact with ingredients is spotlessly clean and sterilised just before you start the brewing process. Keep things covered with clean tin foil or lids after sanitising to keep out dust and airborne contaminants. If possible, work in a clean, draught free area too. I acquired the sanitising chemical and brewing ingredients online[2].


  • 5 litres un-chlorinated water
  • 1.5kg Local Honey[3]
  • 1tsp Acid Blend
  • 1tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1 packet Champagne Yeast

Brewing Kit

  • 5 litre stainless steel 'stock pot'
  • 2 demijohns with bungs and air locks
  • funnel
  • other 'normal' kitchen items


1. If like me you use dried yeast then it will need rehydrating/starting. In a shallow dish, dissolve 2 tbsp of the honey in 200ml of freshly boiled water. Cover with clean foil and leave to cool until lukewarm (just below 37°C , body temperature). Once cooled sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the honey solution and re-cover. After 10mins stir then re-cover and store in a warm place for at least 2hrs (I used the airing cupboard).
2. Boil 3.3 litres of water in the pot. If using tap water, keep boiling for 30 mins to get rid of the chlorine. If you've used bottled or otherwise chlorine free water just bring to a rolling boil then remove from the heat.
3. Add the honey slowly (you may need help here), stirring continually to ensure it dissolves rapidly and doesn't sink to the bottom and scorch on the base of the pan. Be very careful not to scald yourself and look out for delayed boiling over. Stir in the acid blend and yeast nutrient too.
4. Cover the pot with clean foil and leave to cool until lukewarm. With the aide of a sanitised funnel transfer the pot contents to the demijohn. Get your yeast starter mixture and give it a stir then pour it in too. Give the demijohn contents a swirl to help mix the ingredients. Place a bung with an airlock firmly in the neck of the demijohn. It shouldn't be full to the neck,  leaving space for the initial and hopefully vigorous fermentation. Put the demijohn in a warm place and wait.
5. Within 24hrs or so the fermentation should be well under way. A steady stream of bubbles should be coming through the airlock and a foamy head may have formed on the demijohns contents. Mine had a 'tide mark' up into the neck the following morning. It seems I was right to take the precaution of standing the demijohn in the empty 5 litre pot in case of overflow.
6. Once the fermentation is progressing, store the demijohn in a cool dark place and make daily checks. After about a month the bubbling should be slowing down and a layer of sediment forming in the bottom of the demijohn.
7. When the sediment reaches a depth of 2 to 3 cm the mead should be racked. This means carefully syphoning the liquid into another (sanitised) demijohn, leaving the sediment behind, and after topping up with clean water to the neck, bunging with an airlock again. It is important to minimise the meads exposure to oxygen. Don't be lazy about this step, leaving your mead on the sediment too long will spoil it's flavour.
8. Daily checks should continue. Each time the sediment builds up repeat step 7. If the liquid level drops below the neck then top up with clean water. If a couple of weeks go by without you seeing any bubbles through the airlock, the fermentation has come to an end. Patience though, this could take up to 6 months! Premature bottling could lead to a pleasant fizz or exploding bottles!
9. Finally then, using the same careful syphoning, transfer your mead to (sanitised) bottles and seal them up to age. As with most brews, the flavour tends to improve with ageing. Store in a cool dark place.

I'll probably be 'tasting' mine at bottling time, which could be around christmas, and then every few weeks after! All in the name of research, of course!

1. Home Brewing by Kevin Forbes. ISBN 978-1-90723-105-6
3. Mr Paul Kime, 311 London Road, Wyberton.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Fabulously Fudgy Gluten Free Brownies

I found this recipe on and it's so easy as it's all in cup measurements and there are very few steps for when you need a chocolate fix!

You will need:

A 9 x 13" traybake tray

1 cup sunflower/vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 x 1/3 cup cocoa
Pinch salt
1 cup gluten free plain flour
100g dark chocolate

Preheat your oven to 170 deg

Mix together the oil and the sugar until blended.
Add in the eggs and the vanilla.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla.
Chop up the dark chocolate into small chunks and add to the mixture.
Transfer to the traybake tray.
Bake for up to 30 mins. The brownies should have a slight crust on the top but still be fudgy in the middle.

Happy Eating!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Breakfast Banana Muffins with Cinnamon Glaze 
(made with Maud Foster wholemeal flour)

You will need:

A deep cupcake/muffin tin lined with cupcake cases

Makes 15 (ish) muffins

3 ripe bananas, mashed 
200g sugar (any is fine, caster, muscovado, granulated) 
1 egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
120ml vegetable oil 
240g Maud Foster wholemeal flour
80g porridge oats  
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
1 tablespoon baking powder

For the glaze:

2 tbsp Icing Sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
few drops vanilla extract
enough milk to make a smooth paste 

Preheat the oven to 180 deg (fan)

In a large bowl, stir together the bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla and oil. 
Combine the wholemeal flour, oats, cinnamon, ginger and baking powder; stir into the banana mixture until blended. 
Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin cases. 
Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed for about 25 minutes.

When the muffins have completely cooled, make the glaze by placing the icing sugar in a small bowl with the vanilla and the cinnamon. Using a small whisk, mix in enough milk to make a smooth paste. Drizzle the glaze over the muffins.

These are great for a quick breakfast substitute if you're in a hurry! 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Family Chicken Curry

You Will Need:

Ideally a cast iron casserole pot you can use on the hob and in the oven 

5-6 Chicken Thighs (either boned or boneless)
100g Lentils (pre-cooked and drained)
1 large red onion (sliced)
1 red pepper (sliced)
2 Medium Potatoes (cubed)
1 Red Chilli (de-seeded)
1 tbsp Curry Powder (hot or mild, whatever your preference)
1 tbsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
50g sultanas
Chicken Stock (enough to just cover the curry, I used two cubes) 
Vegetable or Sunflower oil

Preheat your oven to 160 deg (fan assisted)

Heat the oil in the casserole pot. 
Put the chicken thighs in and brown over a medium heat for between 5-10. Remove from the pot and put to one side.
Put the onions, red peppers, potatoes, chilli in the oil and fry until softened for around 5 minutes.
Add in the curry powder, garam masala, tomato puree and the sultanas and stir. 
Add in the lentils and place the chicken thighs back on top. Pour over the chicken stock until the chicken thighs are just covered.
Put the pot in the oven and cook for 1 and a half hours.

Serve with naan bread and mango chutney.

Happy Eating!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Foolproof Cupcake Recipe

You will need:

A deep cupcake/muffin tin lined with cupcake cases

Makes 12 cupcakes

170g Stork or butter (softened)
170g Caster Sugar
3 eggs
170g Self Raising Flour
3 tbsp Buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170 deg (fan)

Cream together the butter and caster sugar.
Alternatively, mix in one egg and then a third of the flour until all mixed in.
Add in the buttermilk and vanilla.
Spoon into the cases and bake for between 18-20 mins.

You can easily alternate the flavours with these. If you want chocolate cupcakes, just take away 40g of the flour and add in 40g of cocoa (I also add in a couple of tablespoons of warm, strong coffee. It really brings out the chocolate flavour). If you want lemon cupcakes, mix the juice of a whole lemon with a couple of teaspoons of granulated sugar. With a skewer, piece a few holes in the cakes while they're still warm and drizzle over the lemon syrup.

Happy Eating!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Flapjacks are not something I make that often. I tend to make more cakes. But somehow with flapjacks, you feel that they're that little bit healthier!

The recipe below is ridiculously easy. My little girl and I made it together and she basically did most of it!

Apple & Raisin Cinnamon Flapjacks

You will need:

A 8" x 8" square baking tin greased and lined at the bottom with baking paper 

Makes approx 12 flapjacks

125g butter or Stork
125g light brown/soft brown demerera sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup 
250g porridge oats 
2 small eating apples, grated (either with skin on or peeled)
50g raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 160 deg (fan)

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a pan on a low heat. Leave to cool slightly. 
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and pour in the butter mixture. 
Mix well, tip into the baking tray and pat firmly down using the back of a spoon. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden brown. The flapjack will still be very soft so leave to cool in the tin. You can score out the portions while it's still warm.
Once cool, cut into squares.
Store in an airtight tin. 

Happy Eating!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Quick and easy evening meal!

I bought some turkey steaks this week (in a bid to become everso slightly healthier) and wanted to serve them with brown rice and peas. Very uninspiring though I hear you say!

Not when you have wholegrain mustard, double cream and some runny honey! Ok, so the double cream kind of ruins the bid to become everso slightly healthier but, hey-ho!

I'm not listing this as a recipe as it's so simple!

I snipped my turkey steaks into bitesize pieces and fried them in a little oil until just cooked. I then added a heaped dessert spoon of wholegrain mustard, a dessert spoon of runny honey and around 100ml of double cream. I cooked it all down for about 3 - 4 minutes and served it with the brown rice and peas!

Happy Eating!